The Little Black Dress (Short story)
The black dress hung in her wardrobe, a reminder of a time when life was less demanding and responsibilities few.
She had been tempted many times to give it away, due to the legacy of an extra two dress sizes after having the twins, but something had always stopped her. Perhaps it was the memory of how she had felt when she wore it – vibrant, beautiful, desired. It was a long time since she had felt like that.
The dress was beautiful; simple, elegant, with a cut that allowed it to slide over her size ten figure, hugging in all the right places, and revealing just the right amount of cleavage and calf. Jake had always admired it on her.
The last time she had worn it was the day the kitset pregnancy test had read positive. She was over the moon and fortunately, instead of being upset, Jake had taken her out for a romantic candlelit dinner at the posh `Sprago’s’ restaurant to celebrate. At some time during the evening he asked her to marry him.
She remembered every detail. He had actually gone down on one knee before a room full of clapping diners and wouldn’t get up until she said `yes.’ It was terribly embarrassing but it had the desired result and they spent the rest of the evening making plans to build their dream home with room for six children.
Unfortunately, after the twins’ birth, diet as she might – and she had tried them all from grapefruit, high calorie, low carbohydrate and everything in between – the pounds simply would not shift.
Periodically she would try the dress on, hoping for some sort of miracle. But it got worse. She could recall the last time she tried; squeezing and stretching until she was blue in the face then, tugging at the skirt, she had edged towards the dressing mirror. The image reminded her of a black sausage with legs. She was mortified.
Of course, Kelly and Mikaela, who were the love of her life, were worth every lump and bulge and she wouldn’t swap them for anything, even the slimmer sexier image she had once possessed.
What she would swap, however, was the cheating rat of a husband who was having what he thought was a `secret’ affair with his ridiculously well-endowed blonde bombshell of a secretary.
She had discovered this several weeks ago when cleaning out his shirt pocket before tossing it in the laundry basket. It was sooo cliché. The perfumed note cooing over some delicious rendezvous [she tried to imagine when this would be – lunchtime at some seedy motel?] and how she was looking forward to a repeat performance sometime soon.
She knew it was Miriam because it was signed with a big M and below it was a large lipsticked kiss in the same vivid red the sexy secretary always wore.
She couldn’t believe it. Her first impulse was to race down to his office and confront the pair of them but the twins were demanding her attention and by the time she had finished tending to them her rising emotions had settled into a slow burning anger.
By the time he arrived home that night her emotions were firmly under control and a gourmet dinner that would have done the chef at Sprago’s justice, awaited him.
He was pleasantly surprised, as she knew he would be, as dutifully she asked about his day and placed a cool pilsener of his favorite lager in his hand.
She had no idea what she was going to do but she knew if she was patient something would come to her. In the meantime she would play things by ear and watch carefully for an opportunity.
When they married she was not in love with Jake. She liked him a lot, more than any man she had dated before but love, she decided, was for the frothy romantic types and her personality tended towards more practical leanings.
However, at 30, her clock was ticking and she knew if she wanted a child it should be soon rather than later.
From the point of view of security Jake earned a good salary and he seemed happy about the prospect of supporting his newly imminent family. She wondered now what had really prompted him to marry her when he clearly hadn’t loved her either.
Now the happy families act was all in the past. She had kept the knowledge of his affair to herself for long enough and it was time to act.
Taking the little black dress from its hanger she drew it over her head. It felt good as it slipped easily down over her newly slender form. At least that was something she could thank Jake for; his infidelity had taken care of any food cravings and the weight had melted away.
Pirouetting before the full-length mirror, she admired the effect. It was certainly an improvement on the last time. If she did say so herself, she looked pretty good. She hoped it was good enough for what she had in mind.
Over the weeks several plans had come to mind – from selling up and cleaning out their bank accounts and running away with the girls, to suing him for every cent he had and everything in between. She even imagined a crime of passion but her practical nature dismissed it as too messy; besides, she preferred the idea of leaving him penniless to suffer and (hopefully) pine.
In the end, however, even that thought was put aside. Nothing seemed right somehow. And then Jake presented the perfect scenario when he suggested they dine at Spragos for her birthday.
It was ideal, Spragos being the place where he had proposed to her. She was going to be quite blunt when she told him she and the girls were leaving. It would be like a dose of good justice. She might even tell him loudly so the whole restaurant could hear, just like when he proposed. It was all quite poetic somehow.
Standing back she gave her new streaked and tousled bob a few flicks, cast one more critical glance in the mirror, and collected her evening purse from the dresser.
Downstairs she gave a few last minute instructions to the baby sitter, kissed the girls, and followed Jake from the house. When she returned everything would be changed. She hoped she hadn’t left her final grandstand too late.
The situation was quite odd, she thought, as she settled beside him in the company Mercedes. Although comfortable with their relationship she hadn’t been in love so it should have been a relief to find he was gaining comfort elsewhere. But ironically the reverse had been the case.
When she looked at him now, it was through different eyes. Somewhere along the line she had fallen in love with the man, darn him. He was just too nice, too good looking, and very sexy.
At the restaurant she eyed the long table they were headed towards and looked about for the intimate table for two he must have booked. Suddenly, the room erupted about her as friends and relations suddenly converged from out of nowhere.
What on earth was going on? She didn’t need all them to witness his humiliation. What were they doing here?
When the first flush of noise had died down and she had time to think she turned to Jake, who was seated beside her, and said, “I hadn’t expected this. I was rather hoping to talk to you alone.”
“Darling,” he said, “I thought you’d enjoy it. You always said you’d love a surprise party.”
At that moment a loud voice boomed in her ear and she turned to see Jake’s partner, Richard, a large parcel under one arm and Miriam, clinging to his side, under the other.
“Happy birthday, my dear,” he grinned, stooping to kiss her cheek and lay the parcel before her. “Now I don’t mean to steal your thunder,” he said, looking suddenly very boyish for his forty something years, “but I’d like to introduce my brand new fiancée.”
Her mouth fell open as Miriam, smirking like a mouse on a cheese mountain, waved her hand forward, flashing the biggest diamond she had ever seen.
“Happy birthday Liz,” she giggled, “hope you don’t mind us springing this on you tonight but we couldn’t wait.”
Speechlessly she gaped at the happy pair, feeling the color rise in her cheeks. Eventually she found her voice.
“I, um, well fancy that. Thank you for the gift and congratulations,” she finally managed between several quick glances at Jake to gauge his reaction to the news.
But he seemed to have eyes only for his wife and when Richard and his bride-to-be were seated he leaned over and whispered in her ear.
“I know it’s been difficult for you with two babies needing so much of your attention but I just want to tell you that I think you’re doing an amazing job and you’re still the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever known. Happy birthday, darling. ”
His arm stole around her waist and he squeezed her to him as he whispered `I love you,’ in her ear. She almost melted on the spot.
“And, by the way,” he said, smiling appreciatively, “that dress is still my favorite. You eclipse every other woman in the room.”
Suddenly she knew she was going nowhere – at least nowhere without him. She didn’t know how that letter had found its way into his pocket but she did know that she would never, ever, jump to conclusions again.
And as for the little black dress, she would keep it as a reminder, just in case she ever forgot.